|Monthly Tech-Tip |
The name is from the Greek spodos, meaning burnt to ash. Spodumene is a silicate mineral often referred to as lithium feldspar. Its mineral form is characterized by hard needle-like grains of brilliant white color. It is used in ceramics as a source of lithia.
Lithia is a very powerful flux, especially when used in conjunction with potash and soda feldspars. As one of only a few natural lithium source materials, spodumene is a valuable component in glass and ceramic/enamel glazes (Li2O reduces thermal expansion, melting temperature and viscosity of the glaze melt).
Spodumene is only slightly soluble (in contrast to lithium carbonate). Because spodumene is a natural combination of silica, alumina and lithia it melts better than a chemically equivalent mixture of lithium carbonate, kaolin and silica. Since almost all raw glazes contain kaolin and silica it is normally fairly easy to juggle recipe ingredients in a using glaze chemistry to replace lithium carbonate with spodumene (provided, of course, that the lithium carbonate percentage is not too high). Spodumene can also be substituted for part of the feldspar complement in a recipe without disturbing overall chemistry too much (other than substituting Li2O for KNaO).
Some types of spodumene do contribute to the formation of bubbles in the glaze slurry. You can wash spodumene before use to alleviate this issue (mix it well in plenty of hot water, allow to settle overnight, pour off the water the next day and dry it).
Spodumene is a little more readily fusible than petalite since it is higher in lithium.
Spodumene powder, although heavy, dusts easily and is very unpleasant to smell or breathe. And it sticks to tools, scoops and containers. Good ventilation equipment is needed to be able mix glazes using it.
Lithium carbonate is now incredibly expensive. The glaze on the left employs it. But I was able to source the Li2O from spodumene instead. Spodumene has a complex chemistry, but the oxides that it contains (other than Li2O) are those common to glazes anyway. Using my account at insight-live.com, I did the calculations and got a pretty good match in the formulas (lower section in the green boxes). Then I made 10 gram balls and did a melt flow test at 2200F (notice the long crystals in the pools of glass below the runways). And I glazed buff stoneware test (below the flow tests). Not surprisingly, this glaze is very runny. That's why the tiny yellow crystals grow during cooling, they produce the gold effect this recipe is known for. The spodumene version is very similar, perhaps better. Notice my calculated cost: $15.47/kg vs. $8.12/kg.
This is a closeup of G3813B, a recipe with 11% spodumene. Although the glaze is very glossy, its surface is marred by tiny dimples, the remnant of broken and partially healed bubbles escapes. These bubbles were in the laydown and dried in place (the spodumene generates these in the slurry itself, making it frothy). This can be reduced by drop-and-hold firing techniques, but a better answer is to find a frit to source the Li2O.
GA6-C (left) and GA6-E (right) at cone 6 oxidation. The E version adds 4% spodumene onto the 4% rutile in the C (the base is 80% Alberta Slip and 20% frit 3134). The spodumene eliminate the overly whitish areas that can appear. This glaze requires the "Slow Cool (Reactive Glazes)" firing schedule. It looks the best on dark bodies.
This is what happens when some spodumenes are mixed with water. They generate foam and bubbles. This is disruptive in glazes and can be alleviated by washing and drying the powder before use. Or calcining at 500-600F.
|Oxides||Li2O - Lithium Oxide, Lithia|
Talison Lithium website
Cabot Corp spodumene page
Spodumene at Wikipedia
Technical and worldwide deposit info PDF
Technical and worldwide deposit info PDF
|Materials||SC 1.1 Spodumene|
|Materials||FSC 2.1 Spodumene|
|Materials||SC 1.2 Spodumene|
|Materials||CGS 3.1 Spodumene|
The most common source of fluxes for high and medium temperature glazes and bodies.
Generic materials are those with no brand name. Normally they are theoretical, the chemistry portrays what a specimen would be if it had no contamination. Generic materials are helpful in educational situations where students need to study material theory (later they graduate to dealing with real world materials). They are also helpful where the chemistry of an actual material is not known. Often the accuracy of calculations is sufficient using generic materials.
|Temperatures||Spodumene melts (1418C-1428C)|
|Temperatures||Spodumene converts to beta phase (1082C-)|
|Frit Softening Point||1421C M|
|Density (Specific Gravity)||2.60|